Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has gained a 7-point lead over Republican rival John McCain in the wake of their first presidential debate, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.
The findings from Pew come at the same time that polls from Quinnipiac University find Obama taking the lead in Florida and widening his lead in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The last Pew Research Center poll, conducted in mid-September, found the race virtually even. But in its latest poll, conducted late last month with about 1,250 voters, Pew found that 49 percent now favor Obama, while 42 percent favor McCain.
Pew cites several factors for what it calls Obama's "significant lead" over McCain, including Obama's performance in the first presidential debate, as well as voter confidence in Obama's ability to deal with the financial crisis.
According to NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin, when it comes to the nation's financial woes, voters associate McCain with the GOP fiscal policies that have been in place since 2001.
"You have to remember that the last eight years, it's been George Bush in the White House, it's been Republicans in control. If the polls are accurate, John McCain is paying for it," Rudin tells Alex Chadwick.
This is the first time Pew has found such a sizable lead for Obama since June. Other national polls show a similar trend, though not as large.
In state polls, Rudin adds, Obama is also starting to open up a lead.
Over the past 10 days or so, polls conducted in battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado have shown Obama leading.
"With less than five weeks to go, it seems to be moving in Barack Obama's direction," Rudin says.
A poll released Oct. 1 by Quinnipiac University finds Obama with an 8-point lead in both Ohio and Florida and a 15-point lead in Pennsylvania. The three states offer 68 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the race.
"In Pennsylvania, McCain has worked very hard to win over blue-collar white voters, and yet Obama seems to be keeping Pennsylvania in the Democratic column," Rudin says. "It's hard to see what blue states that John Kerry and Al Gore won in 2004 and 2000 that McCain could pry away from Obama."
McCain is putting serious effort into blue states like Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, among others.
No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio, Rudin notes.
The Pew poll also cites increasingly negative opinions about McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, for Obama's lead.
Rudin notes that while Palin had once been a boost on the GOP ticket, she seems to have become a drag.
According to the Pew poll, 51 percent of those polled say Palin is not qualified to be president. Just before the GOP convention last month, 52 percent said she was qualified.
As for the Sept. 26 presidential debate, 72 percent of voters rated Obama's performance as excellent, compared with 59 percent who rated McCain's the same way.